The long awaited summer has now gone and, by the time you read this, the glorious autumn colours will also have faded but we can always look back on those balmy days as we toast our toes (beside the chestnuts!), warm and snug in our homes.
This, of course, assumes we can afford to heat our homes in the light of the ever-escalating fuel costs. So, let's turn to our photo albums and remind ourselves of the recent past.
in August the Maidstone branch took a leisurely cruise along the Medway, enjoying a fish and chip supper as we sailed majestically from Allington Locks towards Teston and East Farleigh.
Later in the same month a representative from the Kent Adult Education Service came to describe all the courses which are available locally, especially for the older citizens.
I am not sure how many of our members have signed up for bungee jumping, pilates or yoga but I believe the macramé and painting-by-numbers courses attracted quite a lot of interest.
In September one of our own members, Hans Pelz, gave a fascinating talk on his boyhood in the Nazi-annexed Sudetenland part of Czechoslovakia, illustrated by a number of photos from his family album. An intriguing insight into a little-known part of Europe during the 1930s and '40s.
The following month it was the turn of another of our members, Andrew Clarke, who showed us some of his digitalised photos of Old Maidstone, ranging from the late nineteenth century to the 1960s.
The last of the year's talks was one on the Crystal Palace, followed in December by our annual Christmas Lunch at the Grangemoor Hotel.
Looking forward, our indefatigable Speakers Secretary, Sheila MacCabe, has arranged a whole series of interesting talks, supplemented by a Cheese and Wine Party and our usual Strawberry Tea.
The year will be crowned by the proposed Grand Centenary Dinner at the Chilston Manor Hotel, Lenham, on Friday 30 May, 2014. Members from other branches and their friends and families will be very welcome and further details will be circulated in the New Year.
We look forward to seeing you there.
A small, but representative group of members attended the Association's Spring Lunch at Hadlow College on 3 April where the menu came once more entirely up to expectations and we had a chance to say farewell to the Association's retiring secretary, Tess, to whom a parting gift was presented. Tess wil be a hard act to follow but her successor, Gemma, seems to have fitted in very well. Let's hope that she will be with us for the next thirty years or so!
Our Branch events started off the year in a very nautical way, with talks on the "Medway Queen" paddle steamer and on the heyday of the Thames and Medway river barges.
Our trip culminated in a visit to Greenwich, where we sawthe figureheads of the old sailing ships. We then embarked on a flight on the cable car across the Thames.
Our now traditional Strawberry Tea fell this year on 14 July - Bastille Day - so the event took on a Gallic atmosphere, although we resisted the temptation to include some garlic-flavoured escargots in the cream scones!
Another day trip, this time to Knebworth House, was well attended and we closed this part of the programme with our usual brain-teasing quiz and are now looking forward to the events for the remainder of the year.
One final point: I mentioned last time our plans for a Grand Centenary Dinner for 2014 at Chilston Manor Hotel at Lenham. The plans for this are going ahead but we have had to rearrange the date to Friday 30 May, 2014 to accommodate our guest speaker so, please put the revised date in your next-year's diary as we are counting on a strong contingent from other branches. Further details to follow and, don't forget, you can always stay the night there for a special price!
With the worst of the Winter over and Spring leading us into what we hope will be a glorious Summer, the Maidstone Branch has been busy organising speakers, visits and other events.
We started off the season with a cheese and wine party at our Chairman's home which was very well attended and put the members in a good mood for the forthcoming year.
As usual, March saw the holding of our Branch AGM which was held in the august Council Chamber in Maidstone Town Hall and was well attended by members.
Special guests included the Mayor of Maidstone and the Association's out-going Chairman, John Richman, both of whom addressed the meeting with a few well-chosen and humorous words.
The meeting resulted in all the existing officers and members of the committee being re-elected en bloc, the chairman thanking the meeting for its vote of confidence in them and its support of the various Branch activities.
2014 will see the centenary of the branch and we are hoping to be able to mark the occasion in a suitable manner. Provisional arrangements have been made for a Gala Dinner to be held at the Chilston Park Hotel, Lenham, on 14 May next year and other activities are currently under consideration. We hope members from other branches will join us in our celebrations.
Last year ended with our usual Christmas Lunch at the Grange Moor Hotel in Maidstone and Sheila MacCabe, our indispensable Speakers' Secretary, has already prepared a full programme for 2013. This will be augmented by a number of coach trips to places of interest, details of which remain to be decided.
In October, 2012 we had a day trip to Arras and Vimy Ridge which was a great success. With the number of our members augmented by a good turnout of friends and relatives, we nearly filled the 53 seater coach, having had to upgrade from the 39 seater we first booked. The coach, provided by Brookline (corporate members of the Association), was spotless and the lady driver an absolute treasure.
We arrived in the delightful town of Arras around lunchtime where we all debussed and dispersed to do our own thing. Most made their way to one or other of the many cafés and restaurants around the main square and it was here we had our only 'disaster' of the day: one of our number tripped on descending the stairs to a cellar restaurant and tumbled all the way down, banging his head on the way. An ambulance was called and conveyed him to the local hospital, where he was tended by a bevy of attractive French nurses. After spending two nights in the hospital he was discharged with no serious after-effects.
All's well that ends well and, since there was no serious injury incurred, we hope to organise another Continental event in 2013 to which members of other Branches will be warmly invited to take part (provided they watch their step on the stairs!).